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LONGHORNS FOOTBALL

Longhorn defense: So bad, so good

Texas makes big plays in second half after looking very small until then.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Sunday, November 04, 2007

STILLWATER, Okla. — It was hideous before it was pretty. It was one of the worst performances before it was one of the best finishes. It was so bad. Yet it ended so good.

That's just the Longhorns' defense.

Ricardo B. Brazziell
AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Texas' Roddrick Muckelroy, left, tackles Oklahoma State's James Thomas. Texas' defenders were off their game early on but came through during the fourth quarter.

Do you berate the defense for giving up 594 yards Saturday, including 430 through the air? Or do you praise them for shutting down and shutting out the Cowboys in the fourth quarter, allowing the comeback?

"You talk about both," Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo answered. "Boy, were we bad in the beginning. Everybody was missing tackles. Defensively we were struggling. We just couldn't get off the field. Finally, in the second half, we were rolling with adjustments and all the changes. We started clicking as a whole and just made some huge stops."

Like the third play of fourth quarter, when on fourth-and-3 from the Longhorns' 35, Oklahoma State ran a reverse to receiver Adarius Bowman. Cornerback Deon Beasley, playing for the injured Brandon Foster (bruised chest), was waiting for him.

"That was the whole defense," Beasley said. "I was just waiting in position. Because everybody else did their job, they came right to me."

Then, trailing 35-21, Texas again stiffened when the Cowboys reached the Longhorns' 35. Again it was Beasley on third down: despite being beaten a couple of times and blowing an assignment, he forced a bad pass with tight coverage.

They did it again when it was 35-28, forcing the Cowboys to punt.

"It's the attitude of these kids," defensive coordinator Duane Akina said. "Many people talk about numbers, but you have to talk about attitude. This was about another team (Oklahoma State) making one-handed catches on third down and the ball bouncing all over the place. It can wear a guy down, and you've just got to keep fighting and weathering the storm. That's what we did."

Before it was good, it was bad.

"We were really disappointed in the tackling early on," Akina said.

When the coaches look at the tape today, they're going to see Texas linebacker Rashad Bobino diving at air. They're going to see the same from Drew Kelson, Roddrick Muckelroy, Ishie Oduegwu and others. They're going to see Oklahoma State running back Dantrell Savage running circles around the Texas linebackers and secondary.

After three quarters, the Cowboys had 494 yards, 35 points and the ball in Texas territory. They had converted nine of 13 third downs and OSU quarterback Zac Robinson completed 27 of 35 passes for 360 yards.

"Give Oklahoma State a lot of credit for that. Playing against an offense like this, they spread you out with their formations, and there are some great athletes," Akina said. "Oklahoma State was running all around out there."

So what changed?

"There was no magic defense you could call; we just had to start making plays," Akina said. "Actually, we went back to our original game plan, and our guys started tackling. I know it sounds simple, but that's the best explanation I can come up with."

atrubow@statesman.com; 445-3959

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